September 04, 2014
(+++) SHORT AND SWEET
No Nap Book and CD. By Eve Bunting. Illustrated by Susan Meddaugh. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $10.99.
Pinkalicious: Thanksgiving Helper. By Victoria Kann. HarperFestival. $8.99.
The Berenstain Bears: Thanksgiving All Around. By Mike Berenstain. HarperFestival. $6.99.
Short, cute and charming, but potentially problematical for families with small children, Eve Bunting’s No Nap, first published in 1989 and first released in paperback in 1996, is now available in the paperback edition packaged with a well-read, nicely paced CD that offers the book in two separate versions. In one, narrator Jan Staab simply reads the whole book through, with the story enlivened by some Michael Moss music. In the other, the reading and music are the same, but there are page-turn signals as well, so kids can learn to read the book on their own by listening to Staab’s narration and turning pages as she moves on in the story. That story remains delightful, from an adult perspective: little Susie does not want to nap while Mom is out, so Dad tries to come up with ways of getting her to rest: walking, dancing, exercising, reading and more. Finally, Dad gets Susie to lie down with him, but she keeps coming up with things that she wants him to get for her – which he obligingly does. The end result is that exhausted Dad is the one who falls asleep, with toys piled all over him. The text is simple and winning, and Susan Meddaugh's watercolor illustrations bring the words even more enjoyably to life as they contrast Susie’s wide-open eyes with her father’s increasingly sleepy ones. This book-plus-CD offering is a delightful one on many levels – but there is a catch. Young children – the package is aimed at ages 3-8 but will be most attractive for ages 2-5 – may very well see the book as an instruction manual rather than an amusing fictional story. Kids like little Susie do find ways to avoid naps, and all children, especially toddlers and post-toddlers, are constantly on the lookout for new ways to escape midday sleep – not realizing that the lack of a nap will make them (and their parents!) cranky, uncomfortable and generally miserable later. No Nap Book can easily be read as a step-by-step guide to escaping nap time and making sure that a highly tolerant parent, such as the father in Bunting’s book, simply cannot find a way to get a young child to rest for a while. Doubt it? Then by all means get this book/CD combo and turn your young child loose on it – he or she will surely enjoy looking at and listening to it time and again, and eventually reading it on his or her own. But don’t say you weren’t warned of the possible consequences!
“Short, cute and charming” are also the aims of some brand-new books featuring popular series characters, and fans of those characters will enjoy these entries even though they are rather thin both in size and in plot. Both Pinkalicious: Thanksgiving Helper and The Berenstain Bears: Thanksgiving All Around are, as their titles indicate, strictly seasonal books; and both try to attract young readers with extras rather than simply with stories – Victoria Kann’s book features stickers, a poster and tear-out Thanksgiving place cards, while Mike Berenstain’s offers a flap to lift on every page. As it happens, the added items are at least as interesting as these particular stories. Pinkalicious: Thanksgiving Helper is distressingly free of the title character’s usual preoccupation with the color pink – although not entirely absent, it has very little role in the tale, with the result that this becomes just another family-in-autumn story. Pinkalicious and her little brother, Peter, try to help their parents with yard work and kitchen duties, but make a mess of everything they do until, finally, they set the table attractively (although incorrectly; their ever-tolerant parents thank them profusely; and everyone sits down for Thanksgiving dinner. The occurrences here are characterless – the same story could be told with pretty much any central characters from kids’ books, such as the Berenstain Bears. As it happens, though, The Berenstain Bears: Thanksgiving All Around is a different – but still entirely ordinary – story. There is no Thanksgiving meal here at all, and the only reason the characters are looking for a turkey is to allow Papa to proclaim the bird “a fine, proud fellow” and give the Bear family a chance to wish readers a happy Thanksgiving. Title aside, the story is seasonal, not holiday-specific, showing the Bear family walking around and seeing nature scenes, a pumpkin patch, farm work, a pond, and so on. The flaps do not reveal anything particularly surprising: at the pond, for instance, Brother mentions that there must be ducks, geese and swans nearby, and lifting the flap shows ducks, geese and swans. A pleasant, meandering little tale, thankfully free of the moralizing that too often gets in the way of Berenstain Bears storytelling, The Berenstain Bears: Thanksgiving All Around is a nice but not very notable entry in this long-running series.